"Young people, hold your trust as a treasure. Evil was lurking for Savannah, and you never know what wolves are lurking."
-Lisa Thoma, Savannah's aunt
It was the 3rd of January 2019. A Thursday. Twenty two year old Savannah Spurlock made plans to go out that night with friends. Just one month earlier, she gave birth to twin boys and it was her first night out in months. She had two other boys who were four and two years old at the time.
Savannah lived with her mother, Ellen Spurlock, in Lexington, Kentucky, United States and Ellen agreed to look after the boys while Savannah went out. Ellen was happy that Savannah was going out with friends as she thought she needed a little break.
Savannah drove Ellen's car that night. She made arrangements to meet up with two friends. She drove with one of her friends to the other friend's house and Savannah left Ellen's car there and they got into her friend's car and drove to The Other Bar in Lexington.
One of Savannah's friends left early and Savannah stayed at the bar with the other friend but they later had an argument and her friend went home. Savannah left the bar around 2.30am. She FaceTimed Ellen shortly afterwards and told her she would be back later that morning. Ellen went to sleep after that call. When she woke up, she discovered that Savannah was still not home.
Ellen was worried as Savannah very rarely went out and she did not believe she would leave her boys behind for such a long period. She called her but her phone had either been switched off or the battery had run out. Ellen reported her missing later that day.
Police spoke to Savannah's friends and obtained surveillance footage from the bar in Lexington. Savannah was seen leaving the bar with three men. Her friends didn't believe that she knew any of the men she left with. They had never seen them before. Ellen told police that when her daughter FaceTimed her, she seemed fine and certainly wasn't worried. When she called her, Savannah was in a car and Ellen noticed a man was driving the car. She did not recognize him. She said that there were one or two people in the back of the car but she couldn't really see them. She couldn't hear a lot either as they were "hollering and talking over each other."
When asked if Savannah seemed upset, Ellen said that she did not and nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Savannah told her that she was okay and:
"I will be home later this morning. I promise."
Police began looking for the men seen on the footage with Savannah and they identified them and the car Savannah was in. The discovered that Savannah didn't know them but the three men knew each other. They were friends. Police believed that two of the men were in the car with Savannah and one followed them in another car.
Police established a timeline. After Savannah left the bar with the three men, they traveled to a home owned by one of the men Savannah left the bar with. His name was David Sparks and at that time, he was twenty three years old. They went from Lexington to Garrard County, which was around 40 miles away. Police had to establish what happened when they reached Garrard County and whether Savannah was still there or if she left.
Police questioned David and the two other men.
David admitted that the three of them left the bar with Savannah that night. He told police that the four of them went back to Garrard County and at some point, the two other men left. He told police that he slept on the couch so that Savannah could sleep in his bed. He recalled Savannah waking up at some stage, he didn't know what time it was, and she asked for the address. He gave it to her and went back to sleep. When he woke later that morning, at noon, she was gone. He thought she may have contacted someone to give them the address so she could get a ride home.
Police got a search warrant to search his parents' farm in Garrard County but there was no sign of Savannah. None of the men were arrested or charged with anything.
Six months later, in July 2019, David's father contacted police to let them know that there was a foul smell coming from a spot on his land. Police went to the farm and found a shallow grave on the land. It was just 19 inches deep. Savannah's body was inside. Her body was found naked and wrapped in trash bags and her body was folded over with a rug behind her back. Savannah's feet were bound with tape.
David was arrested and charged with murder. He pleaded not guilty.
It is not known why Savannah's body wasn't found when the land was searched after Savannah was first reported missing as there were no indications that her body had been moved.
The Prosecution's case rested on the fact Savannah was last seen with David, she went back to property owned by his family and her body was found on their land. Police also discovered that the rug found behind Savannah's body looked like a rug from David's bedroom. When his bedroom was searched a few days after Savannah was reported missing, there was a rug in his bedroom but it was later determined that that was a replacement rug. The investigation uncovered the fact that he contacted his sister on the 5th of January to ask her where the rug was purchased from as he wanted a new one. Surveillance footage from Walmart showed him paying for a rug later that same day.
Further evidence found implicated him. Savannah's blood was found on the closet door in his bedroom.
But despite the evidence, the Prosecution could not say how Savannah died or what exactly happened to her in the early hours of the 4th of January. They believed they would not be able to prove any aggravating circumstances and as such they entered into negotiations of sorts in relation to a possible plea deal with David. David agreed to plead guilty to murder, tampering with physical evidence and abuse of a corpse in connection with the death of Savannah.
The plea agreement described what happened but not how Savannah died:
“During the early morning hours of January 4, 2019, at 118 Price Court in Garrard County, Kentucky, the defendant, acting alone, intentionally caused the death of Savannah Spurlock. After so doing, he bound her legs and wrapped her body in plastic bags. He later transported her body to (Fall Lick) and buried her in the yard behind that residence. He did so with the intent to elude apprehension for the murder and to impair the evidence’s availability in any future proceeding pertaining to that crime.”
By pleading guilty, David avoided a possible life sentence. Due to Covid-19, the sentencing phase took place via Zoom and David was on screen live from the Lincoln County Jail. He did not speak during the sentencing hearing.
David was sentenced to 50 years in prison for murder and 5 years for abuse of a corpse, which was ordered to run concurrently. David will be eligible for parole after serving 20 years of his sentence.
Commonwealth's Attorney Andy Sims explained why they agreed to a plea deal instead of moving forward to Trial to seek a life sentence:
"We didn't have proof beyond a reasonable doubt of any aggravating circumstances. So, because we didn't have any aggravators, we couldn't seek the three highest penalties in the commonwealth, which are death, life without the possibility of parole or life without the possibility of parole until the defendant serves at least 25 years."
The two other men seen on the surveillance footage leaving the bar with Savannah and David that night were not charged in relation to Savannah's death.
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"The criminal justice system will take a hard look at what happened to Matthew Eappen. It is up to the rest of us to take an even harder look at who is minding our children."
- Eileen McNamara, the Boston Globe
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- Sandra Pupatello
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